Mental Health Association of Central Florida

How Someone with a Mental Health Condition Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Anyone who has been suffering from a mental health condition that prevents them from working, or continuing the work they have been doing, may be able to apply for social security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). To qualify, the applicant must have a mental health condition that matches the criteria in the SSA’s Blue Book, have not worked for the last 12 months, or is not expecting to be able to work for the next 12 months or be on a low or zero income. Applying for a SSD benefit can take a lot of persistence and patience as it may take several months for an application to be approved. Many applications are refused initially, but an appeal is often successful with a disability attorney’s help.

SSDI or SSI?

The SSA recognizes two different ways that benefits can be obtained. For anyone who has had regular work before developing a mental health disability, there is the possibility of applying for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. Qualification for SSDI is dependent on having enough ‘work credits’ to apply. Each year of full-time work is equivalent to a certain number of work credits.

For those whose disability or other reason has meant that they have not acquired work credits may still be able to qualify for SSD benefits through the supplemental security income (SSI) pathway. The SSA uses its Blue Book listings to assess eligibility for a benefit for SSDI and SSI, but the income and work credits criteria are different for the two types of benefits.

The Role of the Blue Book

The SSA uses something called the Blue Book to list many types of medical condition which are the basis of allocating SSD benefits. Not all mental health or other medical conditions are listed, but this may not prevent a benefit being granted.

When an applicant for a benefit applies, their disability is matched with a specific listing in either the children’s version of the Blue Book or the adult version. Each listing describes the criteria that are used to determine whether an applicant’s condition is serious enough to justify allowing a benefit to be paid. Even if a disability does not exactly match a Blue Book listing, there are other ways that someone with a mental health condition may still receive SSD benefits, e.g. through a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment.

The SSD Application Process

When you are ready to apply for a benefit, you can either approach a nearby social security office directly or apply online. You would normally have to make an appointment to see an official at a social security office face to face.

Before filing an application, it is important to ensure you have thoroughly prepared documentation that can show that:

· your disability matches the criteria in a specific Blue Book listing;

· you have medical records that provide details of how your mental health condition developed;

· a recent assessment by a doctor or psychologist;

· mental tests or assessments required to show that you match the criteria in the Blue Book;

· proof of work credits (for SSDI) or income (for SSI).

File A Claim Today

The application process can take some time, so you should submit a claim for disability benefits as soon as possible. If you need help with the claim forms or if you have questions about how to fill out the forms make an appointment at your local SSA branch office. Bring all of your documents with you to the appointment and someone at the SSA will help you fill out and submit your application packet.

Resources

MHA of Central Florida: https://www.mhacf.org/

Blue Book: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/blue-book

Apply Online: https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability/

Local SSA Office: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/state-social-security-disability

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